Recently, I travelled from the UK to the Netherlands and back again. I took notes during the trip.
Departure from Stansted
Nothing had significantly changed on the outside of Stansted airport, except for signs that allowed only passengers inside.
Once inside, I noticed signs on the floor and on banners reminding passengers to wear face masks and to keep their distance, as well as multiple hand sanitising stations dotted around the area.
Going through security, there was an extra, empty row of fencing in between rows, as well as tape marks on the floor, to ensure social distancing. There were plastic screen dividers between each passenger where they stood to put their luggage in the security boxes, and there were plastic screens with a slot at the bottom to slide the boxes to the security agents. There was also a fence maze before going through the scanner door. The agents still patted people down during checks, and when this happened, the passenger was required to remove their mask. Additionally, there was a designated security agent to put away the empty boxes on the other side.
Main Waiting Area
The majority of the shops in this area were closed. Most of the food shops, cafes and restaurants were still open, although with social distancing guidelines in place. For example, some of the shops had fencing up. The capacity of the main waiting area was about a quarter of what it is at normal times; where there would usually be approximately three hundred passengers, there were around eighty.
Gates and Boarding
There was increased seating at the gates, but there were signs advising social distancing on the seats, so many people were standing anyway.
Queuing was all but out the window due to the new boarding procedure. Speedy Boarding, the EasyJet priority boarding package, was also done away with. A PA announcement disbanded the socially distanced queuing that had automatically started, self-consciously stretching down the hall, assuring passengers that boarding would be by seat rows. I noticed then that my boarding pass did not specify whether I would board at the front or back of the plane. My seat row, 19, was called in the first block, and I made my way to the desk. Passengers were required to scan their own boarding pass - the scanner was located in a small slot in the plastic screen in front of the boarding agent. I showed my passport to the agent, pulling down my mask briefly to show my face, and walked on through.
The middle of the plane was filled first (boarding at the front), then the back (boarding at the back), and finally the front (boarding at the front). Only one or two passengers were allowed to climb the stairs at any one time. There was no rule against all seats in a row being occupied. Passengers were encouraged to put away their own bags and close the overhead lockers themselves. No brochures were handed out, instead passengers were encouraged to download them via the EasyJet app or website. Only two people at a time could queue for lavatories.
I talked throughout the flight to a couple of the stewards who told me of the biggest changes to their working conditions:
- Mandatory face masks. Some passengers made a fuss about wearing them, but the stewards simply had to enforce it. The masks were only allowed to be removed for food and drink consumption; if a passenger had to change their mask to a fresh one, they had to consult a cabin crew member first to be advised on how to dispose of it safely; and in the unlikely event that an oxygen mask was needed, one's face mask or face covering was to be removed first. The stewards also said that face mask guidelines differed from airport to airport, with some requiring them only in certain areas.
- Behaviour. In general, people were more scared, and the flight attendants themselves were more cautious; washing their hands, wearing face masks, and cleaning regularly.
- Food and drink. At the beginning, the stewards stopped serving food and drink on board, but they started again in the second week in July, though they no longer accept cash at all, only card, and even then, contactless is preferred if possible.
- Flights. When flying to, for example, Rome, as well as some other places in Europe, EasyJet cut down their number of weekly flights from five to three, so they would be flying fewer, but fuller, flights. Obviously socially distanced seating on the planes would not be financially viable. There were around thirty empty seats on my flight, and the stewards said this is fairly common right now, as a lot of people have cancelled their flights.
- PA announcements. All the PA announcements had to change, and the stewards were given new pieces of information to say about face masks, social distancing, and hand sanitising.
The biggest and most positive change of all was that disembarking was also by seat rows, and passengers were obliged to sit and wait until the row closest to them had started to leave to begin getting their luggage. This made the whole process much smoother and more relaxed, and I'm hopeful that it will stay in place.
Arrival in Schiphol
There was comparatively little signage in this airport about COVID-19 guidelines. There were very few people walking around. It was 10pm, however I heard a secondhand account that it was unusually quiet during the day as well. Face masks were not required, but they were encouraged. I went through the self-service passport control, removing my mask for my face to be scanned. I saw two passport control officers double-checking some passports - these may have just been random checks.
Notably, I did not have to hand in or show the health screening form I had with me, and I didn't have a physical health test in Schiphol, either. I had been advised about these by EasyJet before travelling. However, given the unpredictability of the global pandemic situation, I would still recommend filling out the form and bringing it with you, and to be prepared for any checks the staff may have to carry out.
The Return Journey
The departure procedures at Schiphol were slightly more involved than the arrivals. The security fence lines were topped with plastic screens, there was significantly more signage about face masks and social distancing, as well as a PA announcement about these same things, even though Schiphol is proudly a 'silent airport' (meaning 'no announcements'). The airport was busier than it had been on my arrival, though it still fairly empty. Passport control had plastic screens in between machines.
The boarding again was meant to take place by seat row blocks. Each passenger's boarding pass and passport was checked, then they would go through and be sorted into an area which denoted their seat row number block. Again, the middle was meant to board first, then the back, then the front.
However, the gate boarding area was much smaller than it had been in Stansted, so there was much less space to adhere to social distancing guidelines, and because the boarding agents did not wait until every passenger had arrived at the gate, the new boarding process was much less effective.
On board the flight, an additional announcement was made to say that passengers were not allowed to wipe down their own tray tables or seating area; if there was a spillage, they were to notify a member of the cabin crew, who would then clean up the mess with specialised cleaning materials.
Once in Stansted, passengers were obliged once again to wait until the row closest to them left before getting up. A few rows at the front of the plane all got up at once, and a steward made an angry announcement over the PA system to remind them of the rules. There was no bus to the arrival lounge, we walked and boarded the shuttle, which was packed full and no social distancing guidelines were complied with.
Before returning to the UK, I was required to fill out a health screening form on gov.uk, and was emailed the form to show during my journey. However, once again, I was not asked to show this form to anyone, nor was I asked about it.
[start of notes]
Provide an accurate account of travelling through an airport during the pandemic.
I decided what I wanted to look for: changes in procedures at the airports and on the airplanes, and how it affected travel. I travelled from London Stansted to Amsterdam Schiphol and back again.
I booked the flights on July 8th for the week of August 2nd-August 9th. On July 14th, both flights were changed to different times, then the LDN-AMS flight was cancelled. I rebooked it for August 3rd, free of charge. On July 16th, both flights were changed again.
On August 1st, I received an email reminding me to print out a health screening form, which I was required to bring with me on my journey. The details of the form were a series of yes/no questions pertaining to symptoms of COVID-19, and I filled out my flight number, family name, date of birth, and the date and time I signed. I was struck by the fact the phrase "truthfully completed date" at the bottom, presumably appealing to a sense of honour in the signer.
Throughout all these changes and obstacles, the majority of passengers were extremely orderly and cooperative.
Note on masks - I wondered if perfume sales in airports have decreased, due to lessened sense of smell through face masks.
Note on social distancing - keeping two metres apart tends to be upheld when walking behind or in front of someone, however one can pass by someone else at a much closer proximity. Also when seated, keeping two metres apart in a sideways manner is upheld, however when back to back, one is much closer.
Note on pickpocketing - this must be a hard market for pickpockets, as the general public is infinitely more aware of others getting too close to them.
EasyJet government guidelines list:
Below you will find government links to guide you towards some helpful information on government travel advice to prepare you for travel. Where there's a requirement to complete a specific form to enter a country please find these below.
Please note it's your responsibility to consult the latest government policies and entry requirements for your specific destination prior to travel.
It's important to note that, as this isn't an exhaustive list, it's your responsibility to ensure you've completed the correct forms prior to travel. Failure to do so could result in being refused travel or denied entry to your destination.
Under the section for the Netherlands, there is a link to the Netherlands health screening form:
It is accompanied by this note:
ALL FORMS MUST BE COMPLETED BEFORE TRAVEL
You will be asked to show proof during your journey
There is also a link to the Dutch government's Coronavirus info website:
Dutch measures against coronavirus: basic rules for everyone
Testing for coronavirus:
Travelling and going on holiday:
Holidaying in the Netherlands
- Consider visiting regions or cities that are not tourist hotspots.
- Avoid busy places and travel outside peak hours. Travel by bike or on foot as much as possible for short journeys.
- If you decide to go on holiday in the Netherlands: follow the basic rules. Stay at home if you have symptoms and call 0800 1202 to arrange a coronavirus test.
Up-to-date news on COVID-19 in the Netherlands:
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